Thor: Ragnarok review
The Marvel Cinematic Universe formula is one that is constantly changing. Through the use of sub-genre like The Winter Soldier or emphasizing the particular style of a director like James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the MCU has worked to keep their films fresh. Thor: Ragnarok takes the Guardians of the Galaxy route: relying on the director’s, in this case, Taika Waititi, distinct humor, to tell another tale of the God of Thunder. Waititi’s humor and his past experience in smaller independent films shine through in Ragnarok, which ultimately proves to be another exceptional notch on Marvel’s already impressive belt of films.
Thor: Ragnarok is the third film in the Thor trilogy. This time around Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is forced to fight against Hela, the Goddess of Death, as she tries to destroy his home world of Asgard. With the help of Thor’s mischievous brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), his fellow Avenger, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), the group works to save the Asgardian civilization. Ragnarok had a significant amount of pressure on it because it was following two rather lackluster Thor films. It is no secret the previous Thor films are considered amongst the weakest of the MCU. When Waititi was tapped as the director, it seemed odd but ultimately promising. Waititi promised to utilize Chris Hemsworth’s unexpectedly great comedic timing and to finally bring a sense of fun to the Thor universe. And that he did.
Ragnarok is filled to the brim with neon colors, synth music, and hilarious sarcasm; all components that are not usually associated with the Thor universe. It shows Thor in a much brighter light; making fun of his brother, playing around with his opponents, and even a bit of vulnerability as he loses his famous hammer early in the film. It is a complete departure from the Thor of old but it is a welcomed deviation. This characterization makes the God of Thunder much more relatable.
As for the other cast of characters, the stand-out has to be Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie. Her dry humor, wit, and ridiculous athleticism elevate this film from a single character driven story to an intriguing ensemble piece. Her relationship with Thor, the Hulk, and also Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster provide the film with some of its most exciting and humorous scenes. Along with Valkryie, the Grandmaster and Korg, who is played by Waititi himself, will emerge as new fan-favorites.
Cate Blanchett’s Hela proves to rise above Marvel’s well-known villain problem. Whereas most villains in Marvel films are underdeveloped, Hela is given her due-justice. We know her intentions and we understand why someone as powerful as Thor would be afraid of her. Blanchett’s performance borders on insane but never fully falls over the edge.
Where the film shines in humor, it falters in terms of plot. It seems as if problems are solved almost too easily. The first 20 minutes are bogged down with too much on-the-nose exposition detailing where we’re at in the universe and what is about to happen. It works too hard to settle us into the story when it should just expect us to catch up along the way. Because of the overemphasis on exposition, there comes a lot of forced humor in attempt to make it easier to swallow.
The forced humor only occurs in the beginning of the film while the rest of the humor flows freely into the characters. Waititi’s ability to create humor in characters that have otherwise been straightforward and make it seem organic is a testament to his genius. One will never step back and think, “This isn’t the Thor that I know.” It all feels right despite being so different than its predecessors.
Thor: Ragnarok is an outstanding Thor film and an exceptional Marvel film. It doesn’t completely test the limits of what we’ve come to know of the MCU but it plays with the rules. Waititi’s style shines and harkens back to Thor’s comic origins. It is no doubt one of the funnier Marvel films, even beating Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 at its own game.
Thor: Ragnarok opens in theaters on November 3rd.